Wings' Helm hopes to be back near Jan. 1

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Detroit center Darren Helm reacts after a collision with Tampa Bay defenseman Nikita Nesterov in the third period on Nov. 15.


Detroit — Darren Helm can take the physical abuse from his three young kids at home, so the NHL can’t be too far away.

Helm, who dislocated his left shoulder exactly a month ago, participated in Thursday’s morning skate and is hopeful of a return to the lineup just after January 1.

“Normal day-to-day stuff, it’s fine,’ said Helm of his shoulder, which took the brunt of the hit when he was upended by Tampa Bay defenseman Nikita Nesterov. “At home with the kids (now three girls, the youngest born just two months ago), it’s pretty good, I have to be a little careful if they get a little too excited but it’s good.

“The rehab is going well. On the ice there’s been a few times where it’s stinging a little bit, but the next step is just get on the ice a little more with the guys and start getting a little bit of contact.”

Helm was enjoying a good start to the season with seven points (four goals, three assists) in 17 games with a plus-6 rating.

Helm’s line with Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek was arguably the Red Wings’ most effective and dangerous to begin the season and had formed some real chemistry.

The team has missed Helm’s speed, ability to drive to the net, and penalty killing.

“(He) brings energy and ultra competitiveness and speed, and those things are the reason we wanted to re-sign him because we wanted to be a team that was fast and relentless,” said coach Jeff Blashill, which the organization did July 1 (five years for $19.25 million) before Helm, 29, reached unrestricted free agency. “Those are things he embodies.

“The fact he’s on the horizon to come back is a positive thing.”

Having persevered through a variety of injuries the past few seasons,  Helm has been able to fight through this one, as well.

“It stunk, I took a day to kind of be mad about it,” said Helm of his initial reaction. “I just got back to trying to be positive as I can and get back to being healthy.

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“Obviously I want to be out there, but you go through injuries throughout the season and your career. I’m confident I can overcome this.”

Surgery could still be an option after the season — or maybe later in the season — if the continued rehab on the shoulder isn’t completely successful.

Helm said he went through a similar injury earlier his career and didn’t require surgery — and is hopeful this one will be the same way.

Larkin impactful

Blashill feels the start to Dylan Larkin’s second NHL season has gone as well as could have been expected.

Larkin entered Thursday’s game with nine goals and two assists (11 points), although he did have a minus-10 rating.

“The expectations were enormous coming in for a 20-year-old young guy,” Blashill said. “Dylan has done a good job. I’ve played him a bit at center, and that’s a huge, huge difficult thing when you’re 20-years-old having to play center ice in the NHL.

“We’ve flipped him to wing at different times. He’s on the wing right now, and he’s scored. He has (not) pointed as maybe a year ago but obviously he’s had an impact on the scoresheet.

“It’s a continuing process to get better and especially as a young guy. He’s a big time competitor.”

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Ice chips

Blashill said defenseman Alexey Marchenko (shoulder) would not play tonight against the Kings. Marchenko is considered day-to-day after re-injuring his shoulder.

…As for line combinations, Blashill feels it’s more about individuals winning battles against your opponent on a given shift.

“Playing at a high level, no matter who you’re paired with whether on defense or line pairings, you have to play at a high level," Blashill said. "You better be prepared to win one-on-one battles."

…Goaltender Jimmy Howard earned his third consecutive start.